After some editing, the New Republic put up the post I wrote yesterday about the double standard of Vermont’s new law, a law that eliminates philosophical exemptions from vaccination for schoolchildren but leaves the religious exemptions in place. That makes no sense except in view of America’s overweening respect for religion. Clearly there is more respect for religion than for deeply-held philosophy, since while 48 of the 50 U.S. states allow religious exemptions, only 19 allow philosophical ones.
At any rate, the New Republic piece is this: “Banning philosophical exemptions from vaccination while keeping religious ones makes no sense.”
I then recalled that in March, Sam Harris had a conversation about vaccines with renowned pediatric otolaryngologist Nina Shapiro, “The truth about vaccines.” That conversation is well worth reading, as it will refresh you on the safety of vaccines, the concept of herd immunity, and so on. And there’s on interchange that shows the fatuity of exemptions:
Harris: What about the responsibility of schools, or the state, to mandate sound public health policy here? My understanding is that it’s illegal in California for a school to refuse to grant a “personal belief exemption” and say that a child cannot come to school without having the full course of vaccines. Which is bizarre, because a school can mandate things like uniforms. If you don’t want your child to wear a uniform, you simply can’t come to that particular school. If you don’t want your child to wear shoes, there’s probably not a school in the country that would have you. But if you don’t want your child to be vaccinated—where not being vaccinated will reliably spread a risk of serious illness both to other students and to their siblings at home—there’s nothing the school can do. That sounds like a law in desperate need of rewriting.
Shapiro: Yes, and I think the schools that have looser vaccine policies have realized in the past few months that this may not be the best way to go. These schools are genuinely concerned that if there is a case of measles in their school, it will become big news and very costly for the school—because people will have to be quarantined for 21 days at home. Teachers with young children could be seriously affected. I think many schools will tighten the reins in the coming year. I’m curious to see how the numbers change in 2015 and 2016. I do think that the families who were delaying vaccines, as opposed to forgoing them altogether, may catch up more quickly. We’ll have to see.